Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

Summary: Samsung is being formally investigated by the European Commission's antitrust authorities, over claims it "abusively" distorted competition in the region.

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Samsung is in hot water with the Europeans; a position no company would like to be in.

The European Commission, the executive body for Europe's 27 member states, has opened a formal investigation into Samsung, only months after it said it would look into the matter.

In November, the Commission began scrutinising Samsung, examining whether the enforcement of standards-essential patents was fair.

But the announcement of a formal investigation today means that the Commission will examine the case "as a matter of priority".

The investigation seeks to determine whether Samsung has "abusively" used protected patents to "distort competition" in the mobile market of phones and smartphones.

These protected patents, also known as "standards-essential", enable devices and networks to comply with an industry standard, such as 3G or Wi-Fi networking.

In a statement, the Commission said that last year, Samsung sought sales injunctions against competitors, including Apple, from selling devices that infringed its patents that Samsung owns. Yet in 1998, around the time of the 3G 'boom', Samsung made a promise to the Commission to license its patents-essential to others on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

"The Commission will examine whether such behaviour amounts to an abuse of a dominant position," prohibited by European law, the statement added.

Samsung has been seen to be heavy handed in its enforcement of 3G patents against Apple in recent months. The Commission said it would act based on Samsung's claims of patent infringement in European courts last year.

Samsung was forced by the Commission to licence its patents on a fair basis, but Apple claims it did not receive such terms until after Samsung had sued it.

FOSS Patents author Florian Mueller notes that "the EU's concerns appeared to relate to Samsung's, not Apple's, conduct." He added that: "The Commission said that its concerns related to patents essential to wireless telecommunications standards, and Apple has never sued anyone over a patent of that kind."

If a company is found to be in breach of European antitrust and competition laws, the Commission can fine a company up to 10 percent of its global turnover. In Samsung's case, this could be in the region of $10---15 billion (€8---11 billion).

Image source: Alexander Koellner/Flickr.

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Topics: Security, Enterprise Software, Legal, Samsung

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51 comments
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  • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

    Wait, What? Last time I checked they weren't the company that was being the aggressor in the cell phone market.
    slickjim
    • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

      @Peter Perry Oh?! You're sure about that are you?
      jeremychappell
      • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

        @jeremychappell Yeah, name me one company they have gone after who participated in these pacts that hasn't gone after them first!
        slickjim
    • And what does that have to do

      with reneging on FRAND promises and obligations?

      Nice try at a deflection though, but... FAIL!

      If the story's content is accurate, it appears Samsung only appeared to became "reasonable" with it's patents once it sued Apple to make it look like Apple was the one out of line, ie, Samsung changed "the rules of the game" midstream only to cast itself in a better light.
      MacCanuck
      • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

        @MacCanuck Everything! The company filed a countersuit to give itself some leverage against Apple but they did not fire the first shot.

        To me, it isn't a deflection at all because FRAND is about the fair use of Patents and Licensing... It was designed to protect the company that holds the patents.
        slickjim
      • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

        @Peter Perry <br><br> [i]"The company filed a countersuit to give itself some leverage against Apple but they did not fire the first shot."[/i] <br><br>Sorry but under the FRAND "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" license terms Samsung agreed to, Samsung can't turn around and use their patent as [b]leverage[/b] against a competitor, which they are accused of doing. This would be considered anti-competitive and goes against everything FRAND stands for. This is not the playground where one kid socks the other kid because he/she started first. Read-up some more on FRAND. <br><br>Apple felt the fees Samsung was charging them was "excessive" and "unreasonable". Under the FRAND license agreement that Samsung signed, they have to charge a reasonable fee to everyone.
        dave95.
      • And non-discriminatory...

        @MacCanuck

        So Samsung can't decide to milk more money from Apple when compared to ZTE for example.
        Bruizer
      • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

        @Peter Perry - Apple fired the "first shot" - as it were - because Samsung slavishly copied the iPad from the packaging to the USB-A/C power adapter to the general look and feel of the device with their Galaxy Tab 2. And before you bleat about how this is some attack on Android and spew the BS about it being a rectangle show me where the lawsuits are against Motorola Mobility for the Xoom, Amazon for the Kindle Fire, Samsung for the original Tab.
        athynz
      • Please don't make false statements

        @Pete
        "Samsung slavishly copied the iPad"

        This has never been proven in a court of law. Actually, the final rulings that have been made have all gone against Apple. Apple won a couple preliminary injunctions which were quickly overturned.

        So please do not spread legally proven falsehoods. Samsung did not copy Apple.
        toddybottom_z
      • @Pete: Steve Jobs stated it himself

        "And before you bleat about how this is some attack on Android"

        Steve Jobs himself stated that he wanted to destroy Android. That Apple is attacking Android is undeniable, unless you want to call Steve Jobs a liar?
        toddybottom_z
    • That would be Googorola.

      @Peter Perry

      Last time I checked.
      Bruizer
  • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

    Probably Apple bribing officials haha!!
    danjames2012
    • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

      @danjames2012 Nothing to do with the merits of the case then?
      jeremychappell
      • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

        @jeremychappell Why don't you post some facts? Would probably work better than snide remarks with nothing to back them up!
        slickjim
  • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

    Umm, Apple had refused to licence the FRAND patents in question, which put the ball in a different court, and different legal sport altogether. Samsung *probably* hasn't done anything wrong here, other than *not* trying to enforce them until it was attacked by a company (Apple) who wasn't paying their FRAND fees. Strictly speaking, Samsung didn't bully Apple on these, but did pull them out when Apple decided to go on the offensive. Samsung should have sued Apple much much sooner on the FRAND's after Apple refused, rather than being nice about it. That has probably hurt its case.
    admiraljkb
    • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

      @admiraljkb
      Apple is blowing smoke here and zdnet it's making favors by quoting a M$ patent stooge: http://techrights.org/2012/01/30/linux-and-a-lobbyist-for-hire/
      The Linux Geek
      • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

        @The Linux Geek - Sorry, I see no statements from Apple (or Samsung for that matter). Are you trying to say the European Commission is blowing smoke? Why would they??
        Gr8Music
      • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

        @The Linux Geek And HOW is Apple blowing smoke here when there is not even a comment from Apple? And what does that obviously biased article you linked to have to do with any of this?
        athynz
    • Nothing but guesses and conjecture

      From the story, it appears Samsung was not keeping to it's FRAND promises and agreement in attempting to screw Apple over with terms (fees) different from other licensees, which is not what FRAND is supposed to be about.

      Again from the story, Samsung only wanted to appear to become "reasonable" (by changing the patent terms/fees) once it sued Apple to make Apple appear to be the bad guy.

      Apple had every right to refuse to be treated differently if the patents in question were available per FRAND.

      But unlike you, jumping to conclusions and automatically casting Apple as the villain, that's what the investigation is about.
      MacCanuck
      • RE: Europe opens antitrust investigation into Samsung patents

        @MacCanuck You crack me up... I said Samsung wasn't the aggressor and you challenged that statement... Now you're admitting that Apple fired the first shot here and I never mentioned their name in my first post!
        slickjim